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HORSE EXPERIMENTERS WIN MAD SCIENCE AWARDS
Posted 14 August 2003
Animal Aid's Mad Science Awards (AAMSAs) - handed out each August for pointless and grotesque scientific research - this year go to research teams from 14 establishments who conducted invasive experiments on horses.
The winners' own accounts, published in veterinary and other scientific journals, describe how - among other torments - healthy horses were deliberately fed mouldy hay, subjected to leg wounds that took weeks to heal, walked on treadmills in experiments that lasted months, injected with chemicals that caused pain and inflammation, and made pregnant then infected with a virus that resulted in abortion. Another pregnancy experiment involved the implantation of thoroughbred embryos into much smaller ponies, and vice versa. Foals who were incubated in ponies were born with deformed legs and muscle wastage.
Some of the experiments ended with the 'equine models' being killed and cut up for analysis.
No less than four of the awards have been won by the leading, Newmarket-based veterinary charity, the Animal Health Trust. One of its experiments was co-funded by the immensely wealthy race horse owner, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, and the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
Three other AAMSAs go to Professor William 'Twink' Allen, director of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association's Equine Fertility Unit - another registered charity based in Newmarket. Professor Allen, who is jockey Frankie Dettori's father-in-law, produced the world's first test tube horses. He has also conducted embryo transfer experiments and told a House of Lords Select committee hearing last February that he is keen to get to work on horse cloning.
Other winners include the Royal Veterinary College and several university departments. A total of 11 experiments are highlighted, several of which saw a collaboration of research teams from two or more establishments.
The justification invariably offered for the kinds of experiments that have won this year's AAMSAs is that they help a large number of horses and so it is right to sacrifice the few for the many.
Animal Aid's view is that no animals should be deliberately harmed in an attempt to advance the health of another group of animals - just as we would oppose invasive experiments on people for the supposed 'greater good'. There are many other more rational and humane ways of conducting research, including in vitro tests, computer modelling, the study of naturally-occurring equine sickness and injury; and post mortem studies.
Said Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:
"The horse, like the dog, cat and monkey, is supposed to have an elevated status under the Home Office animal experimentation licensing system. 'Special justification' is required from the licence applicant in all cases where horses are intended to be used. The research projects that win our 2003 Mad Science Awards show that the system is marked by anything other than rigour, compassion and logic. Several of the experiments were conducted by university researchers and were, therefore, funded by the taxpayer."
The 14 Mad Science Award winners are based in Babraham, Cambridge, Hatfield, Huntingdon, London and Newmarket. Overseas teams were based in Copenhagen, Sydney and Kansas.
The full AAMSA 2003 report is available online here - including summaries of the experiments and details of the scientific publications from which they are drawn. Or contact the office for a hard copy.
Notes to Editors
In April 2003, Animal Aid published Riding For A Fall: the genetic timebomb at the heart of racing. Based on scientific papers, industry data and commentaries by leading racing insiders, Riding For A Fall revealed that modern race horses are subjected to such extreme patterns of profit-driven in-breeding, training and competition that their fundamental well-being is under threat, and with it the very foundations of the racing industry. Yet rather than confront the endemic problems that lead to thousands of horses every year failing to make the grade and hundreds more dying from race-related injuries and disease, the industry is looking for 'answers' through laboratory experiments on live horses.
For more information contact Andrew Tyler or Becky Lilly on 01732 364546.
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For further background see previous Mad Science award winners.